Joy Chakravarty/MENA Tour
Journey to Jordan Order of Merit leader David Langley in action at Ayla Golf Club earlier in 2020.
By Kent Gray
After nearly eight months of radio silence, the MENA Tour is finally transmitting again and the first communiqué is one of cautious optimism.
Tour Commissioner David Spencer has shared with Golf Digest Middle East a letter sent to the regional developmental circuit’s membership on Wednesday outlining a 2021 schedule featuring no fewer than 16 events.
The dispatch also promised the payment of outstanding prize money from earlier this year as well as the refunding of entry fees to events subsequently postponed by COVID-19, all in no small part courtesy of a “revised” and “fully executed” naming rights sponsorship agreement with Arena.
The 16 events next year will include the five outstanding 2020 tournaments postponed by the coronavirus outbreak being staged in a “golf bubble” at Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba, Jordan from March 8 to April 5. An 11-event “2021 season” is then pencilled in for an October commencement, notwithstanding further pandemic curveballs.
The letter was light on specifics – event dates, purses etc. – but will be greeted with guarded enthusiasm by the circuit’s fledging pro and amateur membership, many of whom have been left competition starved thanks to the coronavirus. The on-going support of Arena, which supplies structures to the severely impacted events industry, and Ayla, which has extended its destination partnership agreement into 2021, speaks volumes of the tour’s intent, especially in this challenging fiscal environment.
Spencer confirmed the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic would honour its committment of starts in the $3.25 million European Tour event to the top amateur and three leading professionals, a nice New Year’s boost for Jordanian amateur Shergo Al Kurdi and pros David Langley and David Hague (England) and Ryan Lumsden (Scotland).
Further European Tour, Asian Tour and Challenge Tour invites will also be offered to top performers following the five March-April events where fields will be limited to 120 players in a bio-secure bubble.
“These incentives are yet to be finally determined with other promoters but as usual we will work with the individual players once the 2020 Journey to Jordan is completed to create the best possible playing opportunities within their own playing schedules,” Spencer wrote.
There will be no Q-School for the 2021 season with all current members eligible to rejoin for the 2021 season in a category that will be determined after the completion of the 2020 Journey To Jordan. “Furthermore, we are working with several other OWGR Tours to provide MENA Tour Members with limited exemptions to play in tournaments that they are likely to be scheduled for the May to September 2021 period.”
Spencer signed off the letter thanking players for their patience and understanding after an extraordinary year. The MENA Tour was the first OWGR-sanctioned circuit to suspend play – following the Journey to Jordan #2 Championship won by Lumsden, in early March. Plans to play the outstanding five events in late 2020 were tentatively announced in April but the ongoing travel challenges presented by the pandemic ensured that was a false dawn.
“Firstly, I want to apologise (again) for the lengthy delays in the prize fund payments,” Spencer wrote. “We appreciate that this has placed pressure on you and that was not our intention. We are very pleased to have been able to sort this issue out and look to the future in a positive and proactive manner.
“We are extremely lucky to be working with companies like ARENA and AYLA who are dedicated to the MENA Tour and have worked with us to create a future pathway.
“I am not going to go over the destructive nature of COVID especially in the world of sport, suffice to say we have navigated this situation with the players’ best interests always being paramount in all discussions.
“Like all of you, I am very much looking forward to seeing 2020 in the ‘rear-view mirror’ and applying our efforts and energies to growing our Tour and providing more exciting playing opportunities for our Members.
“#StaySafe and wishing you and your families all the best for 2021 and beyond.”